Morgan Housel: Writing for the Internet

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Morgan Housel is a partner at The Collaborative Fund and a former columnist at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal. He’s the author of The Psychology of Money, where he shares 19 stories about the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to manage it.

I revere Morgan’s writing, and this episode was my chance to finally ask him about how he writes so well. We talk about why listening to loud music helps Morgan think, lessons from his favorite non-fiction writer, and why you should start stories at the moment when you’re being eaten by a bear. We also talk about the rise of intangible assets in the economy, why the American economy shifted in the 1970s, and how investment strategies have changed over time.

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Find Morgan Online:

The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

Twitter

Other Links:

The Three Sides Of Risk

Overcoming Your Demons

Predictably Irrational

Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit

Shadow Divers

Rocket Men

Crashing Through

Boiler Room

Ben Affleck’s speech in Boiler Room


Show Notes

2:00 – How the economy is changing, and why the edge in technology is going up while the edge in finance is going down.

6:38 – How the rise of intangible assets is distorting our view of the economy.

9:58 – The benefit of being slightly underemployed and why perceived “leisure” is so important in Morgan’s career.

14:12 – What differed between what Morgan thought he would do as a parent and what he actually does.

15:35 – How the 1970s and 1980s fundamentally shifted the economy and culture of America.

20:22 – The three most important factors in really understanding the economy and whether truth or coherence is more important for social stability.

24:35 – How Morgan gets away with almost no collection or organization in creating his work.

29:58 – Why writing for yourself as a way to better understand your gut feelings will always pay off.

31:46 – How and why Morgan searches for the obvious things nobody pays attention to.

34:00 – Why some colleges are here to stay and others are not going to last according to Morgan.

40:11 – The most important things about writing that Morgan has learned from former and current workplaces.

42:24 – The two articles that Morgan is most proud of writing.

45:46 – What it means that people spend more money on the lottery than movies, music, video games, sporting events, and books combined.

49:06 – Why there aren’t enough good books about how to write well.

52:15 – A writer that Morgan wishes more people would read their work.

54:32 – How the Ben Affleck speech in Boiler Room inspired Morgan to work in finance.

56:10 – The most difficult part about writing his most recent book.


Transcript

David: Morgan, congratulations on publishing the Psychology of Money. First question for you. Why is the edge in psychology going up over time and the edge in finance going down?

Morgan: I think if you were go to back to a hundred years ago or even 30, 40, 50 years ago. So much of the analytical side of finance had not been figured out. We either literally did not have the theoretical framework, or if we did, we didn’t have the data analysis ability to crunch that much data. We didn’t even have the data. Or if we did, we could not scan it with the bout of computational horsepower that we have today. So you could have a very clear, somewhat easy, I say that in hindsight, analytical edge 50 or 100 years ago. And a lot of what Warren Buffet and Ben Graham were doing in their early days, if you go back to the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, was having that analytical edge.

If you could crunch the numbers that no one else was crunching, obviously that gave you a legitimate competitive advantage. It’s not that it doesn’t exist anymore, but it is so much rarer that any investor, whether particularly for an amateur but even for professional investors, quant funds, that they are crunching data that other people are not and they’re actually looking at a proprietary data set. It’s not that it doesn’t exist. It’s just so rare these days. And therefore, because the analytical edge, the analytical side of investing has been figured out and exploited to such a degree, it leaves what is left over as a psychological side of investing. That’s where you can find your edge. Is not, am I smarter than another person? Or do I have better data and information? But can I keep my head on straight, to a greater degree than they can?

And I think in the longer term mindset, can I keep my cool during the booms and the bust? Do I have a level of humility in my analysis that I am doing that’s going to steer me away from a lot of pitfalls? That’s where I think a lot of investors on the whole spectrum, from mom and pops, to hedge fund managers can find a greater edge these days. And I think we’re probably in this period over the last 10 or 20 years, where we’re transitioning away from computational edges that were really clear and were documented. To where now that it’s been moving away from that. The ability to exploit those data differences has moved away from that, but we haven’t really fully owned up to it. And that’s why there’s been kind of a boom in quant funds over the last 10 or 20 years.

And a lot of them not all of them, certainly, but a lot of them the performance has not been that great. Because a lot of those edges that were documented in history, if we’re looking at a hundred years of history, have been largely exploited if they exist at all anymore.

David: So what’s the mechanism driving that shift? Is it, two things come to mind. So the first one could be that the internet basically increases the rate at which investors learn about how the world works, so arbitrages don’t last for as long. That could be mechanism number one. Mechanism number two could be, the economy is actually changing at such a rate that historical windows don’t actually offer as much predictive power as they used to. So if you take something like money printing, where in the 2008 crisis, Obama prints a decent amount of money and everyone goes, “What are you doing?” And then now in the coronavirus crisis we then print way more money now and so the economy is fundamentally different. Where we used to play checkers now we’re playing chess. How would you think about why quant funds might not be doing as well?

I don’t know if it’s changed that much on the latter side of what you’re saying. And here’s my example of backing that up. Benjamin Graham’s famous book, The Intelligent Investor. I think it was first published in the 30s or early 40s, something like that. And the last edition was like the mid 1970s, something like that. There were many different editions of it. In every single edition that he made, he kind of wiped out the previous formulas that he suggested investors use and he came up with new formulas. Jason Zweig is the one who pointed this out, where he basically says that Ben Graham was kind of implicitly saying, “Hey, all those formulas that used to work, don’t work anymore. So let’s talk about these ones now. The formulas that used to work had been exploited or the economy changed so that they didn’t work anymore. So here’s a new set.” The irony is that of course, Ben Graham died in the 1970s, it hasn’t been updated since then.

But there are investors today, 40 or 50 years later who are still looking at those formulas trying to see if they will work. Were even in Graham’s day it was every five or 10 years, they stopped working and he came up with new stuff. And look, there probably are timeless things. If you’re interviewing Patrick O’Shaughnessy or someone like that there probably are timeless things in the data. Whether it’s momentum or small cap premium, what whatever it is. Valuation, value, momentum, those kind of things. Those exist. But should we expect those to exist forever, when they’re so well documented and so many people know them, and there’s so much money chasing kind of the same factors in investing? I think, probably not. So that’s where things have always been changing. Even if you go back a hundred years, these things that worked at one period of time stopped working in relatively short period of time.

David: Take another way that the economy is changing, the rise of intangible assets. How do you think that a trend like that distorts our picture of the economy?

Morgan: From the investing point of view, it’s certainly that if you were to go back not even that long ago, things like price to book value, were really tangible literally way to look at investing, of just what are a company’s assets and what are those assets worth? And you were measuring assets like factories and inventory and things that were tangible. You could feel them and look at them. Much harder to do for Google or Microsoft or Apple or something like that. So it’s definitely changed the valuation techniques that people go through. But it’s also just changed the labor market. In terms of when you had physical assets, people usually exploited those in physical ways. So you owned a farm, which is a physical asset and you exploited the farm by laboring on it. By digging holes and plowing fields you labored in it. Or you owned the factory that you measured, and you exploited the factory by laboring, by pulling levers and working on assembly lines. It was physical assets required, physical labor to exploit them.

Whereas intangible assets, patents and ideas and stuff is kind of the opposite. You exploit them with your head and you exploit them with ideas. You exploit that with things that are much less visible, and with jobs whose skills are much less tangible. And that’s kind of been the shift away from labor towards, not necessarily capitalist that most people would describe it labor towards capital but from physical labor towards idea jobs, that’s been such a big part of the economic shift for the last 50 years. I think one big shift of that and just how we work, now that we’re working with new assets from physical assets towards ideas, is that a much greater portion of jobs these days are people whose… the purpose of their job is to use their head. Come up with ideas, come up with strategies inside their head.

But what used to be work was working with your hands, working with your back working with your legs, which you could see it and it was visible. So your boss knew you were doing good work if he saw you sweating. That was how he saw you doing good work. And then we kind of got that idea that working is at least sitting at your desk eight hours away, hitting the keys and doing something. Where a lot of jobs these days, my job, your job is to come up with ideas and to use our head. And when we do our best work for that, for a lot of people is when you’re sitting on the couch with your eyes closed or going for a walk, these things that do not look like work and don’t feel like work and therefore it’s hard to do them.

Because if you were to go to work, and you told your boss, you’re going to sit on the couch all day with your feet up, thinking about something, he would say, “You’re not working right now. You need to sit at your desk and hit the keys, move your mouse, do something.” So I think that’s been kind of a flaw as we move away from the physical economy towards the knowledge economy, is that we haven’t fully embraced that the knowledge economy requires doing a lot of things that don’t look like work. So people’s bosses and even themselves, I think don’t often put themselves in the most productive positions. Maybe that’s changed with COVID-19, now that we’re all working from home. It gives you a little more leeway to sit on the couch with your feet up while you’re doing your work, thinking about things in a way that you could not do in the office just because it’s not visible. It shows you’re bossy or actually, it doesn’t look like you’re working at the time. So I think that’s probably the biggest shift, in the move away from physical assets towards intangible.

David: Yeah. A couple of thing is coming to mind. The first is, I believe that it’s a quote from Daniel Kahneman or Tversky that you turn me on to about the benefits of being a little bit underemployed.

Morgan: Yes.

David: And going from that, let’s talk a little bit about your own walking routine, which is basically to somebody else looks like something that an 82-year-old retired grandfather would do. So talk to me about both of those.

Morgan: So the advantage of being a little underemployed is that it gives you time to, you just kind of unstructured spare time in your head, where you’re not on the schedule, you’re not on the clock. You’re just kind of daydreaming. In a way that is really conducive to creative thinking and coming up with ideas and figuring things out. Not just creative work, but just trying to figure out problems in your head. It’s hard to do that if all the bandwidth in your head is taken up. But if you’re a little bit underemployed, and you have a couple of hours on your day to do nothing. Nothing scheduled, nothing to do, nothing is due on the clock. You’re just kind of aimlessly thinking, wandering around. That is when you can get a lot done and figure out do your best creative work, do your best work.

So that’s what I do. Most of my “writing,” I feel like happens when I go for walks. Because when I sit at my desk and try to crank my brain, nothing comes out. It doesn’t work. I just don’t work very well sitting down. And then if I ever get some sort of writer’s blog, or I’m just trying to think an article through, I go for walks. And I go for two or three walks per day, and that’s where all of the writing happens. Sometimes I take, no I usually take notes when I walk. And there’s actually a lot of studies on this, that people’s brains work differently and better when they’re walking. Because you’re alert. You have to make sure that you’re not going to trip over this, you got to make sure, are there cars coming?

You got to be alert of your surroundings in a way that gets your brain moving. Versus when you sit at your comfortable desk and you sit at your chair, than it’s just easier for your brain to just kind of go into neutral and kind of coast. I don’t think that’s a scientific explanation, but that’s my understanding of it. So that’s for me is a lot of walking, which again, doesn’t look like work. I tell my wife I’m going for a walk, she doesn’t think I’m working but that’s when I get most of my work done.

David: Yeah. The poet Mary Oliver, so she hated buildings. And so she would go out in nature every single morning, and she said that’s just where she wrote everything. So she did what you did and there was actually a reason for that. She grew up very poor and so she would go out and actually pick up fruits and vegetables. And as she was doing that, in the three or four hours that it took, she would just come up with ideas and she would have her notebook. And that’s how she would write her poetry. So what are you doing when you go for a walk? How would you think about the spectrum between trying to explicitly create an idea? So, say that you’re writing about psychology, where you go then you listen to a Sapolsky psychology lecture, so that’d be like an explicit. The other more implicit version would be, “I’m going to leave everything at home, just go with a notebook and then sort of see what comes up.” How would you think about what you actually do when you walk?

Morgan: I don’t think it’s either of those. It’s I put on my headphones and I listen to music, loud. Which I know you’re not supposed to do. Everyone who says, like the Value of Walking says, “Don’t listen to music…” No, I listen to music. I enjoy it. And I don’t try to force it. You can’t schedule creativity. You can’t force it. Or let’s leave it a little aside creativity. That kind of sounds more pretentious than it should be. But just trying to solve problems in your head. Whatever it is you do for work, you’re trying to figure it out. You can’t force it. You can’t schedule it. You can’t say, “Okay, I’m going to go for a walk now. So I’m going to come up with this idea in the next 10 minutes.” I just think if you just let it be and let it flow naturally, you’re going to start doing your better thinking as you’re walking. Even if you’re listening to music, listening to something else.

So I always have my AirPods on, listening to stuff. I don’t listen to podcasts when I walk, it’s always music. But that’s when I do my best. And the notes that I take, I just shoot myself emails. I send emails to myself with just a couple of words in the subject line. And then when I get back to my desk, I can kind of crystallize those and put those together. So that’s what it is. I never start a walk with a goal of, “Okay, I need to figure out X.” I feel that it just kind of… it doesn’t always work. It’s not like every walk that I come back from, I’ve got great ideas. It’s not even close to that. But I’m much more likely to figure things out and get creative and just try to… if I’m writing something and I’m stuck, I don’t know when it happen. The odds of me figuring it out on a walk are much greater than the odds of me sitting at my desk trying to think it through.

David: What kind of music you listen to?

Morgan: 90s hip hop.

David: Always?

Morgan: 80% of the time.

David: Nice. You once said to me that the Venn diagram of things that you thought would happen when you raise the kids, versus things that actually happen when you raise kids is actually, there’s not that much overlap between them. What are some of the things that you thought were totally true?

Morgan: You’re bringing up the times that I trolled you on Twitter.

David: It was a troll. But what are some of the ways that that’s true?

Morgan: So my wife and I, every month, maybe every two or three months, we’ll have a moment where we look at each other and say, “This is what I thought being a parent would be like.” It only happens for about 10 seconds, every three months, that we get to a moment of parenting where we’re like, “This is what I expected it would be like all the time.” The other 99.9% of the time, it’s completely different from anything that we thought it would be. The best way to describe this and I think even non-parents can relate to this. But every parent I know will nod their head. Kids are crazy. Kids are insane. They’re so hard to deal with. They can be frustrating. They can be so difficult. Of course, there’s a spectrum of that. But even the nicest, mellowest kid is nuts. They’re crazy.

They just require 100% of your attention, 24/7. Particularly and obviously, when they’re young. I think a lot of people naturally, it’s always turned into a meme is like people who don’t have kids will say, “Well, I have a dog. So I kind of understand what it’s like.” No, no. You can leave a dog alone 99% of the time and the dog will be fine. If you leave a kid alone, if you leave a one-year-old alone for 10 seconds, there’s a 50/50 chance that they’re going to do something that’s going to injure them. So it’s just a constant use of your resources that can be so draining because it’s 24/7, literally for years. It gets exhausting for a while but of course it’s the greatest thing.

David: What do you think happened in the 1970s with the shift in the American economy?

Morgan: I think if I had to summarize it succinctly, and I write about this much longer in the book but it’s basically this. For about the 20 years, maybe 30 years after the end of World War II. The economy grew very strongly, and it grew fairly evenly. Some people were wealthier than others of course, but the growth rate among social classes, socio economic classes was pretty even. And actually if there was any unevenness to it, it was at the lower wage workers, their wages grew faster than the wealthier people. The wealthier people still grew as well. But it was much more even. And the way that people lived, even though there were of course, wealthier people than others, was much more compact than it is today. It was the the example that’s usually been given is, wealthy people drove Cadillacs and average people drove Chevy’s. And the difference between those two was not that great.

The Cadillac was a little bit nicer, had a little bit more chrome. But it wasn’t that different. People watch the same TV show, as they listened to the same radio programs. There’s just much more cohesion. There were only three new stations, so people had the same sources of information regardless of where they lived or their their different political beliefs. And then things started, and really in the early 1980s, I think is really when it started moving apart. Is when you had just a shift in wealth and inequality. When the upper income groups just started breaking away from the lower classes. And if you look at it like median male incomes, adjusted for inflation over the last 40 years have been flat, have not declined. Whereas for other groups, they’ve surged five to 10 fold in real terms over that period. So just a much deeper breakaway.

And I think what’s important about that, of course, when we talk about income inequality, it gets political and some people say, “It’s immoral or that it’s not moral to even question it. That this is, of course, the natural functioning of capitalism.” It gets like a tense topic. But I’ve always thought like, I don’t care whether you think it’s right or wrong. I don’t care what you think we should do about it. I just care that it happened. And it impacts how people think about the economy. And one of the big impacts that it had I think, is that America after World War II had this idea of growing together. It just fed this belief that if one person buys a nicer house, or sends their kids to a nice school or buys a nice car that you deserve it as well. Because we’re all in this together, so if you have that it, I deserve it too.

And as people started breaking apart, the material purchases kind of inflated the aspirations of everyone else whose income did not grow that much. And the only way to close that gap was through debt. So, when someone sees someone buy a big house, they natural kind of subconsciously as well, “If they have a big house, I deserve a nice house because we’re all in this together, right?”

David: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Morgan: So if they bought this expensive house, and I want that too, but my income hasn’t grown, the only way I can afford that close that gap is through debt. So mortgage debt surged. If someone sends their daughter to Stanford. well, if you’re sending your daughter to Stanford, I deserve to send my daughter to Stanford or Pepperdine, or whatever it is. So I’m going to do that too, because you’re doing it. And the only way to close that gap if my income has not grown, is just ever increasing amounts of debt. And then so the amount of household debt that grew starting in the 1970s, 1980s just took off. And a lot of that peaked of course, around 2007, 2008 debt adjusted for incomes has kind of been flat if not down since 2008. But that was such a big change in how society worked.

It kind of like the golden age that we think of in the United States was an era where there was much more equality, not just financial equality. I think that’s one element of it. But a much more important is just kind of social equality that we’re all in this together, we’re all playing the same game, we all kind of understand each other to a greater degree, in a way that really decreased political polarization. Because we felt, of course, there were differences and whatnot. And of course, when we talk about the 50s and 60s, those are of course, some of the most tense times for things like racial segregation or whatnot. It’s not that everything was kittens and roses back then not even close. But there was a much greater degree, not a perfect degree, but a greater degree of understanding other people in the economy than exist today.

Which I think things like Brexit, and Donald Trump, and a lot of the big social political issues that have come across, in the last five or 10 years are all kind of an echo of this idea of lots of people in the global economy saying, “This isn’t working for me anymore.” And they say that for different reasons. They all have kind of the different beliefs about why it’s not working anymore. But it’s all kind of the common denominator is, things used to work roughly for everyone that’s generalizing, of course. And they increasingly don’t. They increasingly work for a lower number of people. It’s above my pay grade to figure out what we do about that. I don’t have a lot of thoughts on universal basic income, or what is the right marginal tax rate. That’s not my thing. I just don’t want to be part of that debate. All I care about is that it happened and the influence had a huge influence on how a lot of people think about the economy and make decisions.

David: If you had some kind of dashboard, and you got to pick three pieces of data on that dashboard, to look at the economy, to understand what’s happening in society, what three would you pick?

Morgan: I think if there was a way that you could measure it. I think there is, through Gallup and whatnot. But it would be public trust in institutions, particularly news media, government, and probably just that. Yeah, just news media and government. If you could track that over time. And obviously, as those decline, society is fracturing, pretty simple. And as those increase, and if you go back to the 50s and 60s, trust in the news media and the federal government, incredibly high. Then if you go back to the 60s, the polls that were taken of, do you trust the federal government to do the right thing? That’s kind of the broad question that got asked, was like 70, 80%. Whiles today it’s 15 or 20%. It’s a completely different world.

I think that’s a broad metric that I think encapsulates a lot of what’s going on. It encapsulates what’s going on in the economy, what’s going on in politics, what’s going on in education. It kind of captures just a lot of moods that people have. When things are breaking, they just start to not trust the big institutions that are integral for society.

David: Yeah. Big debate at the dinner table the other night was, said that you have some kind of efficient frontier, would you rather have coherence of that sort of three media channels to newspapers in every city, but we all sort of marched to the beat of the same drum, but we give up some truth? So you have coherence, but less truth or truth but less coherence. And if you take right now that we actually have more truth with the ways that, things that were used to be covered up have now been exposed but then we have less coherence. We were debating which one we thought was better. And I actually made the argument here, that I think that a society… One of the big things that… I always think of the future past. In the future, what will we think of the present? And I wonder if one of them is that we overestimated the benefits to a society of truth and underestimated the benefits of coherence?

Morgan: I think that’s probably right. I guess the way to phrase that and this is not rhetorical, I don’t know the answer to this. But what was people’s cohesion in the 1950s and ’60s was that driven by ignorance? Is that why they were… because they just didn’t understand the other side? I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe. But there probably is some degree of that. I’ve always thought that there’s this irony of the internet, kind of the modern media age where it is harder to hide behind a lie than ever before, because you’ll be exposed instantly. Someone will figure out, someone will find out what’s going on. It’s harder to hide behind bad practices and ever before, but it’s easier to spread a lie than ever before. I don’t know how to reconcile that contradiction. Harder to hide behind a lie, easier to spread a lie. But you see both of those things.

I’ve read about this in an article of all these examples of cold murder cases that sat dormant for 30 years, and the best detectives could not figure that out. And then someone posted on Facebook, and it’s solved in 24 hours. There’s so many things, you just like, exactly what you would expect, when you bring people together billions of people online, you can figure things out a lot greater than if you just have two guys talking to each other over the phone. So you would expect that but you will also know on the other hand, the rise of bad information, fake information in whatever context it is, is greater than it probably ever has before. So I never know how to reconcile those two but it’s kind of like the barbell approach and what’s happening in media. That’s that’s difficult to reconcile. So yeah, it goes comes back to wondering if people’s cohesion was driven by ignorance that we don’t have anymore. We’re better informed today.

There’s this great quote from Benedict Evans, who says, I might butcher this this but he says, “The more the internet exposes people to new points of view, the angrier people get that different views exist.” And I think that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s now that we are exposed to how other people live, we kind of get angry that other people live differently than us. So maybe the ignorance that took place in other areas was kind of a calming effect, because you could just pretend, you could assume that other people live just like you did, even though they obviously didn’t.

David: Yeah, there’s a way of thinking of you as a writer, as, if you have one core skill, it is like the ability to collect, combine, and distill stories to make them entertaining, and then use them to prove your point. How do you organize all the stories that you come across in your life?

Morgan: There’s no and this, I’m not proud of this. This is a flaw. There’s no organization, there’s no note taking, there’s no… I have one Google Doc that is called new stuff and sometimes I copy and paste stuff in there but other than that, there’s nothing. I would say maybe a quarter of the books that I read on Kindle and in Kindle, I can highlight passages that I like. But the other 75% of books that I read, a lot of times if I’m reading with a pen, I’ll just underline something that I like, but there’s no way to go back and find that. I’m not dog-earing pages or anything. So I’m not good at that kind of stuff. I think if I was better at note taking, as I think you are, I would have a greater degree of stories and anecdotes and whatnot. I think I have a decent memory, I don’t know if it’s even above average but a lot of these stories, I think, are just kind of in a library in my head that I can go back and pull up.

But I actually wish I was better at combining all these things that I read.

David: So don’t be modest here but what do you think is going on behind your ability to tell a great story. Because you have a knack for finding them and then when you do, actually being able to tell those stories in a way that is succinct, in a way that, my friend Wes has this idea where she says, “Jump into the part of the story where you’re getting eaten by the bear.” That most writers have too much backstory, and readers just want to hear the juicy stuff. And I feel like that’s something that you understand intuitively, what else do you think is behind that skill that you have?

Morgan: Your friend is definitely right that the way I would describe that is readers are impatient, they’re just busy, and if you don’t catch your attention in literally in seconds, they’re gone. They’re out of there, they’re not reading, they’re not going to drag through your boring article, they’re going to move on to something else. It’s especially true online. It’s different if you bought a physical newspaper or you bought a book, might have a little bit more patience to grind through it because you pay 20 bucks for that book. If you’re talking about a blog post, if you don’t catch their attention in two seconds, bye, they’re out of there. So you have to jump in quickly with that kind of stuff. But I mean, first thing I’d say is, I’ve been doing this every day for 14 years. So if you don’t gain any kind of competence after doing it every day for 14 years, then there’s something wrong with you. So I think it’s a lot of just repetition that would make anyone a better writer over time.

If you read the stuff that I wrote 10, 12 years ago, it’s crap. I don’t like to read it because I go back and read it, it’s like, “Ah, this is so bad.” But if there’s anything else, I think that I’m writing for an audience of one. I write for myself. I like to call it selfish writing. I’m never trying to think, “What would someone else like. If David was reading this, what would he want to read?” I never, never think about that. I think that’s when you do your best work. Because I only want to write something if I am personally interested in it and every sentence that I write, you kind of stop and think, do I like that sentence? Let’s not try to project on a reader. Does this sentence add any value for me personally? And if the answer is no, get rid of it. It’s just, what am I interested in and then you just take a leap of faith that if I’m interested in it as a writer, there are probably other people who are out there who are readers that might think it’s interesting, too. I think it’s never…

Maybe this is somewhere I defer for traditional writing courses, which I know what you have once and now I’m curious and you’re taking this but a lot of people will generalize or say something to the effect of you know your audience and write for your audience. And I don’t know if I disagree with that, but it’s never something I’ve tried to do. I’ve always tried to write for myself and come up with topics that I think are interesting and write them in a way that I would find interesting as I’m writing it. I write a sentence, then I say, I personally think that’s cool. So that’s always what I try to think about when writing

David: I totally agree. Tyler Cowen, when he starts his podcasts, he says, “This is the conversation I want to have not the one you want to have.” And I actually think that behind that quote, is the essence of what it means to write well online. Because the thing about writing online is that you’re not like putting a category or anything. You just take your interests, you put them out into the world, and then you become a magnetic attractor for people who have the same interest. Whereas if you were writing a more traditional magazine, for example, you would be in the design section. So people are expecting design and I think that you’re spot on. You write for yourself, you figure out, will I want to read this, and then the right people just sort of come to you. And you used to go out and try to attract people, now you just sort of, say, you plant your flag, and then you say, “Come to me if you’re interested in what I’m saying.”

Morgan: There’s a great quote that I love from Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, who says, I might butcher this again, too, but he says, “Build something that 100 people love rather than a million people like.”

David: Yeah.

Morgan: And I love it for building a business, that’s great. But I think it’s true for writing as well. I would much rather write an article that I personally love than write an article that I think a 1000 people will like. So I just want to write stuff that I personally would want to read myself and that’s the only lens that I looked through and writing in.

David: I love… You’re talking about selfish writing, I really liked the article called selfish writing where you pulled a quote from Howard Marks interview with Barry Ritholtz, where Howard Mark says, “I’ve been writing these memos for years and nobody read them and then all of a sudden they take off.” It’s interesting to see how much of even within finance now there’s this whole movement towards writing, writing, writing. But a lot of the greats, they were actually sending out literal memos and letters to 100 people back in the olden days, that’s 30 years ago.

Morgan: Yeah. That no one was reading. And so in that post, Howard Marks talks about he was writing his memos, no one was reading. When he sending out to his clients, his clients never wrote back and said, “Hey, I read it.” When he talked to them, a lot of them said, “Oh, sorry, I don’t read your memos.” But he didn’t mind that because he was writing for himself. He was writing to crystallize his thoughts and it was a way for him to clarify his thinking in a way that was helpful for him. He wasn’t writing for the people who are reading it. He sat down with pen and paper to clarify his own thoughts. And I think writing is a way to make sense of the vague gut feelings that you have in your head in a way that nothing else can do. So that’s the other aspect of selfish writing, is that it’s not a communication process, it’s a thinking process that is helpful for anyone. And a lot of what it does when you write an idea, you have a gut feeling, a vague feeling that you can’t really put… you haven’t put into words yet.

And then you when you’re forced to put them onto paper, you either instantly I think can tell, “Oh, this makes a lot of sense.” And it reminds me of this other thing that I can tie in here, or you put it onto paper and you instantly say, “Oh, no, that’s wrong. I thought this was a good idea.” A lot of times, even after doing this for 14 years, I will have this idea and I’ll be like, “Ah, this is going be a good article. I got it all figured out.” And I sit down and I write a couple sentences. And it’s like, “Nope, nope, this ain’t working. This ain’t going anywhere.” So it’s a really helpful way to do that, because if you don’t do that, then you run around with these vague gut feelings that will influence how you think about the world. And it’s not until you think they’re powerful, you think they’re right and it’s not until you put them on the paper that a lot of times you realize, no, they’re nonsense. They were gut feelings.

The reason they were gut feelings and they weren’t coherent is because there’s no coherence to the idea.

David: You have a quote, first thing in the book, right after it says the title, which says that, “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes.” How does that apply to investing? How does it apply to writing for you?

Morgan: Yeah, so the quote is from Sherlock Holmes and I include it right at the beginning of the book. I just think that’s a lot of what investing is. It’s really obvious ideas that nobody pays attention to, because they are too obvious. So if you take this simple construct of, spend less money than you make, save the difference, buy a diverse low cost portfolio and be patient, I think that’s literally 90% what you need to know to do well in finance and investing over time. But it’s just not how people talk about finance. It’s not how it’s taught, it’s not how people talk about it on Twitter, because it’s too simple, it’s too basic, it’s too boring. And there’s just nothing to talk about. Once you explain that to people, it’s like, no, that’s it. There’s no other details. That’s it. That’s the whole plan. And it’s too simple for people to take seriously, so they try to make it more complicated for two reasons. One, because if it’s more complex, it’s more intellectually stimulating.

People who have a lot of intellectual horsepower, want to be able to use what they have inside their head. So simple strategies are just not appealing to them. And B, I think there’s this very powerful idea in finance, that there should be a correlation between effort and results. Because in most fields, there is a correlation between effort and results. Use the example of, they’re stories about Tiger Woods where he used to go to the range and hit a 1000 golf balls, or basketball players that will go to the gym and just dribble all day long without ever shooting the ball, just incredible amount of effort that leads to incredible results. And which is how most fields work. I just don’t think there’s any evidence that in investing, on average, the harder you try, the better you’ll do. It’s not one of those fields. And so that’s why people want to make it complicated, because they intuitively think that if they make it more complicated, they’ll do better.

And I think the evidence is actually the opposite. That if you fiddle with fewer knobs, make fewer decisions, you just make it more simple that you will, on average, do much better over time. And it’s not for everyone, even if they understand that it’s just not in their personality to actually implement it in real life. They want to always be taking action with this idea that their actions will be lead to better results. So that’s something that’s obvious in the world that is never noticed. It’s not taken seriously.

David: Make the bull case for why colleges will stick around and actually continue to thrive.

Morgan: I don’t know if I would make that bull case. Maybe other people would, but I don’t know… I would say this, some colleges obviously will. The fact that there have been 10s of thousands of colleges across the country, a lot of which charge roughly the same tuition, despite obviously varying different degrees of utility that they are offering you in the jobs market, it’s always been kind of crazy. So certainly Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, those colleges will thrive forever. There’s those are always going to have a ton of value for people who can get into and people who can pay for it. And even people who can’t pay for it are going to find value there, if they have to go off into debt for it. But it’s the smaller, it’s the mid and lower-tier colleges where, how do you make an argument that they’re going to continue to thrive in the future like they did over the last 20 years? I don’t think hardly anyone can make that argument.

I think that’s as particularly with COVID-19, it was already moving towards the idea of people questioning, should I pay $250,000 to go to this no name school, is that really beneficial? So it was already moving towards that. And let’s say that was going to take place, that was going to play out over a decade, COVID made it play out over literally the last two weeks, where people are like, “I can’t even go to campus anymore. I’m paying 250 grand for a zoom lecture, that is probably available from person who can explain it better for free on YouTube.” What is this? And the credential that I’m getting from a lot of these schools is obviously, it does not have anywhere near the value in the marketable job value that a credential from MIT or Cal or whatever the top schools would have, even though it’s the same price as a lot of those schools.

So I don’t think I can make that argument that they’re going to thrive in the future. I can’t even make the devil’s advocate argument. I don’t know what it would be. What about you? Do you have at least a devil’s advocate argument for why they’re going to thrive?

David: Yeah. I mean, here’s my biggest argument. People underestimate how much college is part of the American dream. I have two cousins who are freshmen right now and they are just psyched to be there and they have grown up watching movies that said college is the greatest four years of your life. And I think parents have also, in the time that kids have grown up, had the mark of success for raising kids with my children will go to college.

Morgan: I totally agree with all that. I guess if there’s a distinction that I make from my inability to argue that is that, I think that’s definitely true. It’s just going to shift towards the colleges that are adding more value. It’s just going to consolidate. And this is Scott Galloway’s prediction, this is not mine, but, that Harvard, Yale, MIT, the big brand names are going to find a way to expand their enrollment online. And it used to be that, the Harvard incoming class was 500, or whatever it was, might be different than that, but they’re going to find a way to expand it. It’s the mid and lower-tier colleges that are going to struggle to convince people that they have any value. The value of going to college, of course, is going to be there. And I would say, as a parent, of course, I am saving, and I want my kids to go to college. So even if I can’t make the argument that there’s value in a lot of these schools, look, my skin in the game is I’ve saved every paycheck, I put money into my kids 529. So, that’s what I’m actively doing.

I can’t see them going to a no-name school. I know that’s a dismissive way to put it. It’s nothing against the schools. They’re run by good people who are trying as hard as they can. But the value of college is the signaling credential that you are giving to the jobs market, then a lot of those schools that don’t have necessarily a brand name aren’t going to be adding value. Now that was different 20 or 30 years ago, when the credential was I have a bachelor’s degree. It didn’t matter where you went, do you have a bachelor’s degree? That was different for talking 30 years ago, but now so many people have bachelor’s degree. It’s almost become the expected thing for a large segment of young people that just having a bachelor’s degree does not necessarily move the needle as much as where did you go to school is a more pressing part of it. So that’s when the value of the name-brand schools will massively increase and the value of the no-name schools as I call them, it was already declining, and I think this year, it’s plunged even further.

David: Yeah. Couple more comments. So the first to your point about the bachelor’s degree, I was talking to a friend at Columbia a couple weeks ago and what’s interesting is that the Ivy’s used to be special because they were places where you could study whatever you wanted because just a credential from an Ivy League would just be enough to signal to employers that you were purely competent. But even at Ivy’s, the shift towards the computer science major, towards business majors and towards majors with useful skills they say, has gone up. And so to your point about, now, so many people have these bachelor’s degrees. Then the other point about colleges is, maybe, colleges will outsource the teaching and so maybe it’s actually the benefit of college is the campus environment. Maybe, colleges double down on that, they actually have a competitive edge in terms of the campus, in terms of the college towns, in terms of kids being able to go off and learn how to clean their room, do their laundry, and all that sort of stuff.

David: And then there’s big online education platforms that they work with and students see college much more as a place for student life, where they can grow and mature, not as much as a place for learning. Because your point about YouTube lectures is both hilarious and spot on.

Morgan: It’s like a four year summer camp where you go to have fun with your friends and then you watch some YouTube lectures at the end of the day.

David: Sort of!

Morgan: That I buy and I would be happy to send my kids to a four year summer camp with YouTube lectures. I don’t know if I’d pay 60,000 a year for it but of course, there is tremendous value. I met my wife in college. It was the most important significant social event of my life. And people underestimate the value of, in college, you’re never going to be around that number of people who are your age, who are in the same phase of life than you are, you probably never going to be surrounded by so many like- minded peers than you ever will be for those four years and the benefit of that socially is obviously enormous.

David: Motley Fool, Wall Street Journal, Collaborative Fund, name one thing that you’ve learned at each of those three places, which are the three places where you’ve spent most of your career.

Morgan: Motley Fool is where I learned how to write. I was there for 10 years, and a lot of those years, I was writing three articles a day. Just plowing through the volume game, which is when it was just like thrown into the deep end feet first, and you’re just forced to learn on the fly. There’s no better way to learn how to write than to write 3000 words a day, every day for years and years on end. It was hard and a lot of the writing that came out of that was as bad as you would expect when you’re being forced to write that fast. But I feel like that’s where I learned to write. That was the trial and I really think fondly of that. It was a really great experience. Wall Street Journal was just a different bar of really having to justify every single word and every argument.

You could not make a breezy statement, like X happens because of Y. The others wouldn’t let you put it in there. You have to say what Y… Why is that the case? How are you going to prove that? What is your data? What is your information? Has your data been peer reviewed? Has it been … It was just a much higher bar of making an argument versus a blog post. I can just say, the sky is green, have a nice day, publish, put it out there. At Wall Street Journal, I really had to backup every single statement that I made in a way that was really helpful for me. It’s good to have a blog where you can just speak your mind. But that just really taught me how to really think deeper about the arguments that I was making because the bar was higher.

And Collaborative Fund, I really appreciate the fact that in content, I’m a one man show. The ideas are mine, the writing is mine, the editing for better or worse is mine, the typos are mine, everything from end to end is mine. And the reason I like that is because when an article does well, I can own all of it and when it does poorly, I can own all of it. Versus if you’re working at a big news organization, and there are 10 people helping you on the article and editing your article and adding their own thoughts and doing some research for you, it’s not that that’s bad but then when the article does really well, can you take credit for it? Or maybe it did well, because of someone else’s input? Or if it did really poorly, well, is that your fault? Maybe it was the editors fault, who changed all your great pros, you never really know. So I think owning the failures and the successes is a part that I really like about writing for Collaborative Fund. And also just being around the team that I really enjoy working with.

David: Out of all the articles that you’ve written at those three places, which one are you most proud of and why?

Morgan: I would name two, one is one that I wrote a couple months ago called the Three Sides of Risk, which was about a story of two friends, two really good friends who I grew up with, were skiing who were killed in an avalanche and I was going with them the day that they died. I kind of told that whole story. And the other was a couple years ago, I wrote an article about, I grew up with and still have a fairly chronic stutter when I talk. I was able to overcome and I write about how I was able to overcome it, not 100%, I still stutter. But those two were important to me because they were very personal and they were very challenging times and still are. And I think people, so much what happens online whether it’s Instagram or blogs, is people putting forth innocently this curated highlights of their life. On blogs, that’s look how smart I am, on Instagram, is look how beautiful I am. Look how much fun I’m having.

And so much of it is just BS, because everyone’s struggling in life, everyone’s got problems, everyone’s got issues, everyone’s got insecurities, everyone’s been through rough patches that never get talked about. And when you write about challenging times in your life, growing up with a speech disability, being next to your two best friends when they die, when you write about these times, I think people appreciate the honesty, because they’re yearning for it. Because everything else they see on life is this curated highlights reel. So I think if you can… I think the articles did well because of that. And they just meant a lot to me because they were painful periods that I kind of compartmentalized them. I don’t want to think about it that much, don’t want to talk about it. Whereas if you just open yourself up and throw it on the paper, it actually felt really good.

David: Yeah, the two things that stick out from both of them was, in the one about your stutter, you watching Barry speak at a conference wondering how you could ever do that. And then the way that you sort of end that essay talking about how you did that, and then that sort of has this beautiful cyclical narrative that I really appreciated. And then with the Three Sides of Risk, there’s one line where it’s so beautiful. I think it’s like the phone rings, and you sort of say that your friends had died, but nobody actually said it overtly. And I forget exactly what you said but it was so beautiful man.

Morgan: During this period where my friends were missing, we didn’t know what happened to them yet. One of their mothers called me and said, “Morgan, Brian didn’t show up for work today. Do you know where he is?” And I told his mom the truth. “Yes, we skied out of bounds this morning. He and Brandon did it again, I was going to pick them up on the road, but they never showed up, but I have not seen them since.” And she said, “Oh my God.” and hung up the phone. And I think that was the moment where both of us, I think, I don’t want to speak for her. But I assume it was definitely true for me, we both piece together what happened. We both pieced together that they skied out of balance, which is very dangerous thing to do under those conditions with the avalanche risk was so high and no one had seen them since. It was like, let’s connect the dots here. No one wanted to see that. Of course, you don’t know, you don’t want to jump conclusions.

But I remember at the end of that phone call, just kind of sitting quietly and being, I didn’t even want to say it in my head, but I think I just felt it. It was, you can figure out what happened.

David: Yeah.

Morgan: It was it was tough.

David: My favorite sentence and in Psychology of Money is that, “Whenever you find yourself thinking that people are rational, remember that people spend more money on lottery tickets than movies, video games, music, sporting events and books combined.” What does that say about human psychology?

Morgan: I think the thing about lottery tickets that’s interesting, I don’t know if I mentioned this in the piece, but definitely mentioned it in the book, the vast majority of lottery tickets are purchased by the lowest income Americans. The vast, vast majority. The lowest decile of income earners spends an average $400 per year on lottery tickets. And these are people for whom $400 is a very, very significant amount of money. And I think if you it’s easy for a lot of people, you and I, and people listening to this to say, “Well, that’s obviously a bad decision. People who are in that situation spending all their money on lottery tickets, that’s a decision that they shouldn’t… That’s a poor decision.” And that might be the best way to describe it, that is a poor decision and a story. But I think there is this other level of saying, look, some people in that situation, if you’re in the lowest decile of income earners and you’re by and large struggling to get by, you might not have the ability to look at your career and see a path higher towards promotion, towards higher incomes.

You might not have that in a way that a lot of upper income people do. And therefore purchasing a lottery ticket is the only time in your life where you could hold something tangible that says this is literally the ticket of my way out of this, this situation that I’m in. And it gives you a little sense of hope in the way that other people in other fields and other income groups gain hope from their ability to look at their opportunities, their ability to become entrepreneurs, or the ability to move up at their corporations, that’s where they get hope about what the better future that lies ahead. If the only time that someone else can get home from that is buying a lottery ticket and that gives them a sense of joy and a sense of hope that maybe it’s more rational for them than it might seem for people like you and I looking at their situation and just saying that’s crazy.

So I mentioned that in the chapter of the book that’s titled, No One Is Crazy, which is this idea that, of course, people make very poor decisions with their money, they do crazy things with their money. But I don’t think anyone is crazy because everyone is just trying to make decisions with their money based off of the mental model of how they think the world works. And everyone who has different experiences came from different backgrounds, different generations, different countries, we all have a very different mental model of how we think the world works. So it makes sense to me and the decisions that I make with my money, might seem totally crazy and not be the best decisions for you. And just this idea that equally smart people, equally educated, with the same amount of information can come to vastly different conclusions about what is the right thing to do with their money.

And a lot of times in these financial circles, we think we’re debating with each other, we think we’re arguing with each other, but we’re not. We’re both just kind of reflecting the idea that we’ve seen the world through a different lens, and therefore we have different values about what is the right thing to do with our money.

David: Yeah, you could have called that chapter the rationality of irrationality.

Morgan: Yeah, I think that was Dan Ariely’s book, right? What was the title of his book?

David: Predictable irrationality? Was that what it was?

Morgan: Predictably irrational. I think it was. Yeah.

David: Yes, yes, yes. Why are there so few good books on what it means to be a good writer. You and I have gone back and forth on this and we both love a book called Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit. And it seems like there’s still not that many books that I pick up. Even the great Strunk and White on writing well, I think that they’re good, I don’t think that they’re exceptional books. They’re focused too much on grammar, they don’t focus on a lot of aspects of the writing process that are real. And they don’t speak to the emotional experience of writing. What else comes to mind for you?

Morgan: I think there’s two good explanations for why that’s the case. One is that, writing is an art. It’s almost by definition, you can’t summarize it into clean formulas, clean strategies, and say, “Just do this and you’ll be relevant writer.” It’s much more difficult to explain than that, because it’s an art, it’s a feeling and because of that, since writing is an art, what is good writing to one person is terrible writing to another. Some people love deep dense writing where they have to read every paragraph five times to try to understand what the person is saying, and that for other people, that’s not the case. So people like different kinds of writing. So since it’s not like math, where you can have a math book that teaches you that two plus two is four. It’s the same for everybody. But for writing sentence is an art, I just don’t think you can summarize it in a way that is going to say this is the book that teaches you how to become a writer, to become a better writer. You’re a writing teacher, what do you think about it?

David: Well, I think that there’s a couple things. I think that one of the things that’s changed is that… Well, I would go like this. I think that a lot of the books they just focus too much on spelling and grammar. And people will spend hours reading comments written by people on Reddit in their underwear, where there’s no periods, there’s a bunch of commas, there’s typos all over the place and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than the average stuff that you read online. And I think that when I look at the AP style class that I took in college, when I look at my writing advice, it was, at time so perfect, that it diluted, the essence and the energy of what made writing beautiful. And I also think that a lot of the writing advice now, more historically the writing advice, has been for people who have picked up a book, they’ve had nothing else. And so the barometer of what good writing was, didn’t need to be as high.

To your point earlier about books and about pulling a reader in, grabbing them by the collar, you now need to entertain people and keep them engaged with every sentence because they’re getting text messages popping up at the top of their screen, they have emails coming in, they have all of these demands that they associate with the phone and the new medium. And so I think that there’s actually a different kind of writing. Now it would almost be like, there’s no good advice on music creation for electronic music. And I think that there’s like a similar thing because electronic music in some way, because it’s made for live shows, because it’s made with the computer rather than the fingertips, I think, is like different enough that a lot of the classical stuff might not help even if it might give us a starting off point. That’s a hypothesis.

Morgan: No, I think that’s right. I think a close analogy might be that teaching someone to be a good writer is like teaching someone how to be a good spouse. Yes, you can push them in the right direction. But how do you actually teach someone how to be a good spouse? It’s an art. And it’s different for everyone. It’s different from person to person. What one person thinks is a good spouse is going to be a terrible spouse to another. People have different expectations. I think that’s maybe a similar thing of just why it’s hard to teach writing and why there are so few books on how to do it.

David: Who is a forgotten writer that we should all be reading?

Morgan: I don’t know if he’s forgotten and a lot of listeners might not know this name, but Robert Kurson who wrote the book Shadow Divers. He wrote the book Rocket Man. He wrote a book called Crashing Through, that I love. He is, I think… When most people say, who’s the best contemporary storyteller, I feel like 80% of people will say Michael Lewis, great, great answer. He’s of course, he’s up there. I think Robert Kurson is a better storyteller than Michael Lewis. And if I had to gauge his popularity, if Michael Lewis has a 10, Robert Kurson is a three or four. I just think he’s so good at telling a story in depth while keeping you engaged every single word, every line, every paragraph just keeps you hooked in. And I know I’ve read maybe four of his books, every one of them is just phenomenal. I have so much respect for him as a writer.

David: Yeah. Rocket Man is amazing. I remember he has this one line, where he says something like, “Our precision to go to the moon was the equivalent of throwing a dart at a peach from 26 feet, and only grazing the fuzz of the peach without actually touching the solid core.” And it was like classic show don’t tell writing. And some of the ways that in Rocket Man he makes you actually feel the sweat on your hands of what it would have been like, to do a figure eight around the moon, that is the essence to me of good writing. And then the way that in Shadow Divers, you can know what the ending is and still have your leg shaking, your armpit sweating, because he gets you so in the moment that there’s still suspense.

Morgan: He’s great. I think his least known book maybe but my favorite was a book called Crashing Through, which is a true story about a guy who loses his vision at age three in this freak chemical accident. So he’s blind his entire… 100% blind for all of his life. He doesn’t remember what it was like to see before age three. And then he undergoes a cornea transplant, I think in his mid 40s. And when they take the bandages off he can see, for basically the first time in his life. And the book is about what it is like to see the world as an adult for the first time. And it’s so, you just can’t put it down, you’re going to finish it in one sitting. It’s so good. It’s called Crashing Through.

David: Wow, I’m buying that right now. Why did the Ben Affleck’s speech in Boiler Room inspire you to work in finance?

Morgan: The Ben Affleck speech in Boiler Room is when he is sitting down with a new recruit of interns or new hires. And gives the most egotistical bro-ish speech, about what finance is. I’m not going to try to explain to do a justice, you can look it up on YouTube. But when I watched it when I was 19 or 20, it was like, “I want to work in finance.” Because it just exuded power and respect and money in a way that was appealing to me. And I think it’s funny because I look at that and now that kind of attitude, that mentality, that bro-ish power is awful. I can’t stand it. It’s one of my… It’s like the antithesis of what I want to do and be. But it’s what got me attracted into finance. So it’s interesting that that pulled me in, even though when I look at that now, it just makes me want to vomit to think about. But I loved it at the time.

David: That’s hilarious. Two more questions. First one, you have a world with a super powerful drug where everyone is happy all the time but they feel true happiness, this deep contentment that we rarely have today on planet Earth. Is that a utopia or dystopia?

Morgan: I think it’s probably a dystopia because I don’t think it would work because what makes people happy is the contrast and I know that’s a cheesy fortune cookie answer, but it’s the truth. That’s what makes people happy is contrasting it with other periods in their life when they were less happy.

David: Final question. What was your biggest point of hopelessness when you are writing this book? Because I know what it’s like to write these long essays, which is a quarter of the length of when you’re writing a book like this. And there are times when you just feel stuck, you feel like you’ve hit a dead end. What was the point that was most difficult for you?

Morgan: It’s so easy to pinpoint. I gave myself a year to write this book. And after nine months, I had finished one and a half chapters, one of which did not even make it into the final book. So after nine months into my one year of doing this, I had achieved virtually nothing. And we were going for a long car ride one day, and we were driving to Philadelphia and my wife politely but sternly basically said, “You’re not really making a lot of progress here. What’s going on? You’re kind of overdue to get this done.” And it was exactly what I needed to push me into gear and basically when we got home, I cleared my calendar 100%. And basically the month of December 2019, I wrote 80% of the book. I didn’t absolutely nothing else six days a week from like five or six in the morning till 8 PM. Just focused 100% on the book and got it done. And I think I needed her to say that.

Morgan: But I also needed to have that focused time versus my previous strategy, which was like, “Oh, I’ll chip away at it for a year.” Maybe that works for some people was not going to work for me. I needed to sit down and do nothing but write that book for a month.

David: What did you do? Did you have an outline? And then you just work through it? Or did you just write essay by essay or chapter by chapter almost as if you’re writing an essay?

Morgan: I think it was closer to the latter. I mean, I had an outline but I changed the outline a lot as I was going. And a lot of the stories in the book are kind of are derivatives of previous blog posts. Where I was able to take research or a story I told and expand on it and go deeper on it. So it wasn’t like I started from a 100% blank slate. I had kind of that structure sitting there but expanding on it and writing it and put it all together in a way that made sense, tying it together was more difficult than I thought. Books are not easy. I mean a book is 60,000 words. Which a normal blog post is 800 to a thousand words. So 60,000 words is a lot. It’s the equivalent of writing 60 blog posts, which is a lot of material to make work without rambling, which is the hard part.

David: Yeah, well you did a damn good job. Morgan, thanks very much.

Morgan: Thanks so much for having me, David.

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